Monday, March 31, 2008

Half of it is 90% mental.

The other night I hung out with Mary's daughter,Sable, for the night. She is ten. We ate pizza. Watched America's Best Dance Crew. Walked to the Carpinteria Beach Bluffs during sunset. And I taught her how to not be ticklish.

Well, she might still need some practice. But I gave her some good training, and tested it out a few times, and I think she got it. Here's how we went about it...

1) She flinches and draws back when someone looks like they are going to tickle her. She anticipates the discomfort and what her usual reaction is, and already feels ticklish before she's even been touched. I told her to practice relaxing, and just watching the person who might tickle her. They aren't yet, and so what if they do? Don't flinch until you're forced to.

2) We got her to see tickling for what it is. Just skin on skin. I "tickled" her feet and told her to focus on diminishing her instinct to kick my hand away and laugh. We conditioned her to feel a different sensation. There's no switch I was flipping to demand that she react, and she could control how she reacted if she thought about it the right way.

3) Like I touched on briefly in 1 & 2, I stressed again to her that tickling is mostly a mental game. There will be some situations where you cannot help but feel tickled, and you'll have to react if you can't get away. We both knew that. Certain people have a knack for getting you good. But look, that hand coming toward you? It's just a hand. Will it touch your side? Maybe. But you can defend yourself. Flex your muscles, that helps. But mentally relax. You'll make it through unscathed.

I kept thinking about this later. I thought about how what I told her really boiled down to...
Don't be anxious.
Put it in perspective.
Be strong, be capable, but be relaxed.

This has happened to me before... maybe to you... when you realize the advice you've just given is of the kind you could use yourself.

"As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives."
-Henry David Thoreau

Monday, March 24, 2008

fresh new talent

Awhile back my mom showed me the website which lets you plug in a person, place, thing or time, and then collects whatever it easily finds from google connected to that item. So you get a wide range of funny, random, and sometimes inexplicably accurate phrases attached to whatever you've typed in. Sometimes the things it comes up with are actually a bit poignant. I think the things that come up for my name are pretty fun...

corinne is a very capable actress
corinne is my little angel
corinne is a quiet farming community located four miles west and one mile north of brigham city
corinne is an americana artist with an arresting voice
corinne is approximately 639
corinne is originally from montreal and has worked on hundreds of television commercials
corinne is too much like her mother
corinne is forced to realize that the real problem she must overcome is growing up
corinne is inspired by the muse
corinne is rapidly becoming one of the hottest sought after women of the next generation of australian comedians
corinne is a must hear
corinne is a board member of the french australian chamber of commerce in sydney
corinne is a jazz aficionado with an exquisite ear
corinne is puzzled with james coldness
corinne is happy that she and james would get back together again
corinne is still there
corinne is a junior journalism major at oswego state and hails from israel
corinne is always friendly and takes that extra time with us to get it just right
corinne is not in the office
corinne is a person who seems to keep herself much to herself and to start with repels james advances on her in the bedroom
corinne is 15
corinne is able to stand up on her own everywhere and she runs
corinne is forbidden by law
corinne is single and living in chicago
corinne is entirely associated with italy
corinne is demonstration of the fact that a classic style will withstand all passing fashions
corinne is his pillar of strength
corinne is a published poet
corinne is the fresh new talent out of sweden on the cool music label
corinne is primarily responsible for serving students from the colleges of business administration and arts and architecture
corinne is one of the most visible and accessible lesbian artists in the world
corinne is an intuitive
corinne is a new girl in town
corinne is looking forward to the upcoming year
corinne is my granddaughter
corinne is a magnet collector extraordinaire
corinne is a junior english major with an economics minor
corinne is dedicated to making your search for a new home a truly enjoyable experience
corinne is a 1998 magna cum laude graduate of notre dame college
corinne is a consummate world traveler who never lost her strong attachment to
corinne is a trailblazing entrepreneur
corinne is not especially patient
corinne is responsible for policy development in alberta and the nwt
corinne is the oldest of three children*
corinne is home to some fine people and fine houses
corinne is making her presence known to the family
corinne is a wholistic health practitioner
corinne is new to us this year
corinne is kind enough to drop by burrito boy to pick up our lunch on her way over to the hotel room
corinne is married to jeff and they have a married daughter
corinne is still highly regarded and sought after both professionally and by her fans

*How'd they know I was the oldest of three children? ;)

What crazy things come up for you?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Imperfect Masterpieces

"One must not always think that feeling is everything. Art is nothing without form."

* Gustave Flaubert-1846

Say that we were to continue this metaphor briefly to apply it to the "feeling" and "thinking" preferences of Myers Briggs. So, feelings are the art, thoughts are the form. Maybe some would take issue with this, but I find it helpful. I've thought a lot lately about how we make our decisions, and within the how, why? Remember that this letter preference symbolizes not how much of feeling or thinking you do, but which guides you most often when you make decisions... from everything from what you'll be eating for lunch, what you'll be doing with your tax rebate, what job you choose, to who you marry.

According to my favorite MB site, "When someone makes a decision that is based on logic and reason, they are operating in Thinking mode. When someone makes a decision that is based on their value system, or what they believe to be right, they are operating in Feeling mode." We can make decisions using just one preference or the other, but most decisions involved a combination of both. Decisions that are harder are likely because we are conflicted between our T and F sides, and in these cases, our dominant preference usually wins. Decisions made without much conflict are usually a result of being in sync with both sides.

Regardless of whether we are Ts or Fs, I believe we make our best decisions when we take all the facts into consideration, and also our knowledge of ourselves as well..."will I be okay with this choice in a month? In a year?" The more you know yourself, as well as know what your goals are personally, the easier it is to make small daily choices (should I buy this shirt or should I save my money) as well as larger scale choice.

When I was 4, my mom considered home-schooling me instead of sending me to kindergarten and then grade school. She thought about the effort it would take to coordinate it, with getting the appropriate curriculum and accountability check-ins and all, along with already having a 3 year old and one on the way. I think she did some research on effectiveness and whether it had a social impact on children who homeschooled early on. She put a lot of objective & logical Thinking into the decision. But as I recall her saying, in the end, she decided to start my education at home because it felt right. She looked at me and just felt that I would flourish in that environment and learn to love learning. And I did. She did a great job for those first couple years before I started public school, and I have benefited from it ever since, I believe.

So if our lives were painted landscapes, created as we go, they would turn out best with proportional amounts of both artistic creativity and form. What would Van Gogh's Starry Night have been without his knowledge of color and diligence in pattern? On the other hand, paint-by-numbers art is fun for children, teaching them shape and form, but there isn't as much variety and beauty in art that doesn't have the freedom of expression. Also, we are allowed mistakes; art is often more valuable when you can see the imperfections.

Our feelings aren't our only and best guide; they can be fleeting or selfish, and neither are our thoughts, as they can be based on inaccurate information or inconsiderate. We all default to one preference more often, but wisely using both and then proceeding with choices you know to be best for you and others is how we make a true work of art from our lives.

winds a'blowin

"What's more delightful than an evening beside the fire with a nice bright lamp and a book, listening to the wind beating against the windows?"
"How true!" she said, her great dark eyes fixed widely on him.
"I'm absolutely removed from the world at such times," he said. "The hours go by without my knowing it. Sitting there I'm wandering in countries I can see every detail of -- I'm playing a role in the story I'm reading. I actually feel I'm the characters -- I live and breathe with them."
Madame Bovary Pt. II, Ch. II serendipitous, to find this quote at the end of a Friday night that I have spent doing exactly what it speaks of*. Sure is windy tonight in SB. I've just stumbled upon a collection of quotes from Madame Bovary, written by Gustave Flaubert in 1857, and they are all gems indeed. Who knew?

"Ah!" she said, lifting her lovely tear-bright eyes to the ceiling. "If you knew all the dreams I've dreamed!"
Madame Bovary Pt. III, Ch. I

*the experience amplified by listening to tracks like "Friday I'm In Love" by The Cure

Tuesday, March 11, 2008 have plenty.

..."for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty."
-Paul to the Phillipians

I wrote it so many times in my college prayer journals... also in those anonymous prayer notebooks during my every few month visits to the little prayer chapel at Westmont. "Please grant me joy and contentment." I was aware of my repetition... like, I'm praying for this again? What's my deal? It wasn't like I didn't have joy or never felt content, those years were a total blast, but the unknown and the disheveledness and stress weighed on me at times. I couldn't seem to relax.

No longer do I feel the urge to pray for joy and contentment. I believe this is due to two major lessons I have learned since those good ol' college days.

Numero uno, that my choices and timing aren't God's, and that His are better. I think I have a good grip on this concept by now, after having seen it in action again and again. "Dead set on being an RA in Page?" He says..."Nah, you're going to be in Clark and it's going to be amazing and give you lifelong friendships." "Oh, you wanted to keep that job? Nope. Here's a better one." "You like that house you live in? Well it's going to catch fire and you'll learn how to take advantage of unforeseen opportunity and find a more awesome one."

Numero dos, that joy and contentment aren't just granted to you, and you certainly don't get it from being sure about where your life is going. I realized, with some divine guidance of course, that it comes from knowing yourself and taking action accordingly. What things can I do, habits can I form, people can I spend time with, thoughts can I think, hobbies can I keep up with; that lead me to feel joyful and content no matter what circumstances are swirling around me? Oh, and that's just it, the circumstances are what surround us, but they do not make us. We are only to do the best with them that we can.

Here are a few things that I make a part of my life regularly to keep me "content whatever the circumstances."

*Walks on Hendrys (sometimes Butterfly) with music during sunset.
*Commitment to my soccer team. Wednesdays and Saturdays used to sound like too much of a commitment, til I realized how great it is for me and how it makes a difference to the team.
*Intentional friend it Wednesday morning small group, dinner with my old neighbors, a weekend in Orange County, or Thursday nights watching the Office, if I make it a frequent thing and do my best to even it out with all those dearest to me, I can get through anything, whether I am in need or have plenty. (and I know that I am lucky right now, as being in SB grants me plenty of good friends in proximity)
*Making the best of Daylight Savings. It couldn't have come at a better time this year. More chances to get over and see the sunset after work.

Summing up most of these things, here are some photos from Sunday, when after a long fun weekend with lots of friends, Meg, Josh, Anna and Shane and I hit up Leadbetter for a sunset picnic.

What keeps joy and contentment in your life?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I Can See Clearly Now...

I was on the edge of my seat, transfixed. A few around me were actually dozing off, others were discreetly playing words games with each other on pads of paper. But I couldn't get enough. This was my first symphony, and I was in awe. The percussion and horn section and woodwinds; they wove together to create something that was more than the sum of their parts. The music rose and swelled through the expansive balconies and reverberated off the soaring ceilings of the Berlin Philharmonic Hall. As it ended, I and my fellow Europe Semester students gathered our things and made for the exits. I was still in a state of music elation, and not wholely aware of my surroundings. I wanted to let the memory of the music soak in just a bit more, so I didn't find a friend right away to talk to and walk out with, and just kinda wandered out of the hall.

Everyone in our group was scattered in the crowd but generally all heading out toward the nighttime streets of Berlin to make our way back to the hotel. I saw a few Westmonters just a few feet away, made a mental note to join up with them, after I shuffled my way through all the other symphony attendees to grab a pamphlet from right by the exit door. Then I turned, and the familiar faces were gone. I hustled forward, scanning for familiar silhouettes, somewhat used to doing such things after over two months of traveling with the same people. Still, no one. I hadn't been the last one to leave my seat, and I knew I'd been taking my time but I was sure that there had to still be others from the group coming down the stairs or just walking away from the Hall. The music was forgotten, I dashed around, not really believing that not a single other student wasn't still within eyesight of me. It was like a movie, where everything and everyone familiar suddenly vanishes.

Fifteen minutes later, I sat down on the steps outside the almost vacant Philharmonic, sweating and trying to focus on figuring out exactly what direction the subway was.
On just our second night in this foreign city, I had not yet grasped my bearings or quite figured out the transportation system. I knew we had traveled through the subway and walked several blocks to get from our hotel to the symphony, but we (well, at least me) often just followed the professors and not necessarily making note of the direction and street names. Plus, everything was in German.

I wasn't completely frantic. I wasn't hopeless. But I felt alone, I felt some regret, I felt bummed that I wouldn't get the fellowship of the journey home, to speak with people in the same language as we talked about the day's events. I had no map or subway schedule, telling me which way to go or when. I had only myself.

I slowly stood up, and as I did, the situation became clearer. I was not lost. I knew my location- I was in front of the Philharmonic, and I knew our hotel name. I knew who I was and what I was capable of- I was 21 years old and had traveled through many foreign countries, and being a smart and independent person, had found my way out of difficult situations before. And I was definitely not alone. God was with me there in Germany just as he was in Montecito. I also had a roommate who would realize within a couple hours that I was not at the hotel.

The exact details of how I found my way are unclear, as it was almost four and a half years ago now. It was not terribly dramatic; I set off in the direction I thought we'd come from, found an entrance to the subway, took a couple wrong turns, asked some English speakers for assistance, had to wait for a train to come as I had just missed the previous one... I ended up walking more than we did to get there, since I didn't know the name of our stop. I know I was nervous, but I remember feeling exhilarated to be seeing the bright lights and streets of Berlin with an observant and quiet eye. I felt a sense of adventure at being self-reliant and at the fact that I was taking an unexpected path. I had prayed and felt confident that I would get to my destination eventually. And I also stepped outside the moment to remember how great life was; that I was with dozens of lovely friends traveling through Europe and that we had many places yet to see. I had figured out how, though I was traveling unexpectedly solo and without directions, to enjoy the journey and stay positive and remember God and myself. The music I had heard earlier that night came back to me; I could hear it play over in my head, and I was smiling when I finally stepped into the lobby of our hotel.

I'm smiling now remembering this story, and grateful that I am still confident that the journey will be a great one, and although sometimes it will be difficult or confusing, I am not alone. I know I will get to wherever I'm going a wiser and happier and more complete person that I was before.